If you missed the first chapter, start here!
Normally unflappable, the Reverend CJ Miller had the look of a man who had jumped out of bed just moments before when Penelope knocked on the back door to the rectory.
“Come in, come in,” he said as he hopped across the room on one shod foot to sit down at the kitchen table where the other sock waited. His elderly Dalmatian lay on the floor next to the oven, nose pressed up against her empty food bowl. “Do you mind feeding Spot this morning? I’m running behind.”
“No problem.” Penelope opened the pantry and started dishing out the kibble. “Late night?”
“No, I just overslept.” He nodded toward the dog. “Nature’s alarm clock failed me. I’m going to have to start setting my own alarm again.”
Penelope laughed. “You’ve been trusting your dog to get you up on time?”
“No, I’ve been trusting Jezza to get me up on time, may she rest in peace.” He smiled at her surprise. “Sounds bad when I put it that way, doesn’t it? But ever since she moved in she let Brutus out every morning at five-thirty on weekdays. Spot would bark at him from the bedroom window. You can just see the corner of that yard from the second floor. Brutus wasn’t there this morning so Spot didn’t wake me up.” He finished tying his shoe, stood up, and took a large gulp of coffee. “Right, I think I’m ready.” Keys jingled as he patted his pocket, and he tapped the glasses hanging from a chain around his neck. “I’ll see you in a bit.”
“Preach it, father,” Penelope said with a wave. “Oh wait a second. Did Spot wake you up yesterday?”
“Five-thirty on the dot, just like always.” He took another drink of coffee and hurried out the door, leaving a thoughtful Penelope in his wake.
Brian pulled into the church parking lot just as she was leaving after the service. “Good morning, Pen. Do you have a few minutes?” He leaned over and opened the passenger door.
Penelope nodded, then stopped halfway in. “Wait, this isn’t about me not telling Officer Dolan who Jake was, is it?”
Brian laughed. “Are you kidding? Half the squad wants to buy you a beer. I did have to promise Dolan that he could be the one to cuff you if it turns out you did it, though.”
“Seems only fair.” Penelope buckled her seat belt and closed the door, then hung on to the door handle as Brian accelerated out of the parking lot and made a quick turn onto the next street, stopping in front of Jezza’s house.
They got out of the car. “Do you mind doing a quick walk-through with me to show me exactly what you did yesterday and let me know if anything is out of place?” Brian lifted up the yellow tape in front of the walkway to allow her to duck under. “You came in through the front door? Was the door locked?”
Penelope pulled out her key ring and picked out the one with “Br” scribbled on blue tape. “I don’t think I even checked. I could hear Brutus barking and he only did that when Jezza wasn’t there, so I assumed it would be locked.” Brian motioned her on so she inserted the key in the door, turned, and pushed. The door stayed closed. “The deadbolt wasn’t on yesterday.”
“Did she usually lock the deadbolt?”
“No. I don’t think she was that worried about security because Brutus was there. Not that he would ever bite anyone, but his bark is pretty scary if you don’t know him.”
“Okay, so what did you do next?”
Penelope unlocked the deadbolt and showed him the path she’d taken to let Brutus into the yard, and explained everything she’d done. The house had black smudges around all the doors, and the floor that she’d been planning to mop the day before remained uncleaned though the house smelled better now that it had dried out.
“So you grabbed the leash when you went outside to wash the dog off?”
Penelope nodded. “I didn’t think he would hold still otherwise.”
“And the leash was…?”
Penelope pointed to the coatrack by the front door. “Right there.”
“And that’s where it usually was?”
She nodded before understanding why he was asking. “Is that how she was killed?”
Brian continued writing notes as he spoke. “Hit over the head and then strangled with the leash.”
“Did she ever talk to you about her hobbies, who her friends were, or where she was from?”
Penelope shook her head. “We really only talked a couple of times, and that was about Brutus. Wouldn’t her husband know all that stuff?”
Brian sighed. “Jezebel Taylor, the real Jezebel Taylor, died five years ago in a car crash. Nobody knows who this woman really is. Her husband claims she never talked about her past and kept to herself.”
Penelope made a face. “How much would it suck to ditch one life and then end up married to the mayor?” She shook her head. “Sorry. Hang on, though, she gave me a second number in case of emergencies.” Penelope went through her phone contact list. “Here it is.” She read off the number to him and he repeated it back. “Oh, and the rev said that she let Brutus outside yesterday morning at 5:30 like she always did, if that helps.”
Brian looked up from his notes. “Gunning for my job now, Pen?”
“And have Jake be my boss? Hardly.” She glanced at the clock. “Anything else? I have a pretty full schedule.”
“Call me if you think of anything else.”
Penelope gave a quick salute and headed off to her next client.
(Comments, requests, and suggestions all welcome!)